SPECIAL EDITION - The Awesome Spot Playground!
Author: Chad Kennedy, Landscape Architect, ASLA
As 2016 closes out and a new year begins, I wanted to recognize the fact that amidst an abundance of negativity in the media this past year, amazing things have been accomplished by people who truly want to make a difference in the world. There are so many examples of this within each of our local communities that I would never be able to identify all of them. I will however focus on one effort that is close to home with the O'Dell Engineering team. This issue of LAND Connections will focus on a grassroots project called "The Awesome Spot Playground" that O'Dell Engineering has been assisting with and continues to advocate for.
The Story "On November 15, 2007 our family was blessed with our second son, Tommy. At birth, we knew that Tommy would face many challenges in his future. Tommy was born with severe physical abnormalities and congenital deformities that would require many years of therapy, surgeries, and unknowns. With the love and support of our family, friends, and community, Tommy has flourished and grown into a funny, witty, charismatic, loving, and all around amazing young man. Through it all, Tommy has always been positive and so strong. He has endured more, to date, than most will endure in a lifetime. One of the biggest challenges Tommy has faced, is his ability to get around physically. With the help of a wheelchair and walker, Tommy has gained a level of independence, and can now move around and get where he wants to go without assistance.
For the past year, a small group of grassroots community advocates, led by a local mother of a child with special needs, Rachel Loredo, have been working tirelessly to create a vision for this playground.
Rachel describes her desire to advocate for equal play through her family's story.
As a family, we have always treated Tommy the same as we would any little boy growing up, allowing him to try any activity or sport he desires. We have always remained active outside of the home with visits to playgrounds and family trips to the beach. You name it, and we do it to the best of our ability. As Tommy has grown, visiting playgrounds has proved more challenging than it was when he was young and small. Tommy wants to be independent and play with his peers, without the embarrassment of Mom or Dad needing to carry him to the play structure, and hover around to make sure he stays safe. As a result, visiting local playgrounds became less fun for Tommy, and more difficult for us to enjoy as a family."
You can read her entire story in the sponsorship magazine or online at The Awesome Spot Playground website.
The project is a socially inclusive and sensory integrated play space designed to eliminate social, physical, sensory, and cognitive barriers from play. These barriers, unfortunately, have been a long standing problem for some populations in our society including persons with disabilities, individuals on the autism spectrum and those with moderate to severe sensory processing disorders. Through a design that promotes proper childhood development and intergenerational play, the Awesome Spot Playground will break down these barriers that traditionally keep children, siblings, adults, and grandparents from participating in play with each other. Additionally, as a nature based and themed playground, it will create ample opportunity to open the mind, setting it free for creative and imaginative play.
The playground follows seven principals of design intended to remove physical and social barriers in play. The playground is designed for equitable use to (1) Be Fair for all kids; designed for flexibility in use so all kids can (2) Be Included; designed to be simple and intuitive so all kids can (3) Be Smart; designed with perceptible information where all kids can be (4) Be Independent; designed to be tolerant of error to (5) Be Safe for all kids; designed to require low sustained physical effort so all kids can (6) Be Active; and designed with the appropriate size and space for approach and use so all kids can (7) Be Comfortable.1 Based on community input the playground is divided into three distinct areas for exploration and free play: the Swamp Cruise,Savannah Safari, and the Rainforest Excursion. Each area has a multitude of sensory rich experiences offering graduateted levels of difficulty, just right sensory input and limitless creative play! To learn more about the design, view a 3D walktrough, meet Homer the Rainbow Rhino, or explore the three nature inspired play areas, please visit The Awesome Spot Playground Project Description Page online.
The EffortThe project has been the recipient of quite a bit of media attention and community support in the last few months following a design unveiling in October. In addition to local coverage in the Modesto Bee and Stanislaus Magazine, other news outlets such as KCRA and most recently, the national radio show Cam & CO have interviewed Rachel and highlighted the project. As there is not a similar play space like this in the Valley, it will truly be a major regional draw, bringing people from all around the State together to participate in social play for all! For additional information about this AWESOME project, please view the links below.
In response to efforts made by The Awesome Spot Playground group, the Modesto regional community has rallied with support and shown a great deal of interest through amazing attendance at public meetings and through sponsorships before the project even got off the ground. Many local companies and organizations have sponsored the project through monetary and in-kind donations/sponsorships. The team has also spoken at many community events and has several speeches scheduled for early 2017.